Welcome to Display Week

Welcome to Display Week

by Stephen Atwood

It’s July.  It’s hot outside, and there’s a lot of good stuff going on out there!  It’s the middle of the summer and like many of you I’m worried about managing my vacation time so as to minimize the impact to my organization while at the same time not missing out on all the things calling to me beyond my office windows.  Summertime and good weather can really be an inconvenience when you have relentless work deadlines and constant pressures to manage.  The pull of the outdoors and the desire to run away and see some place new is highest for me at this time of year.  We live in a time when professionals take fewer vacations than ever before and businesses are generally leaner, tending toward high productivity at the expense of flexibility.  It’s hard to find a “convenient” time to get away, and when you do the stress of re-entry and catching up can wear you back down in almost no time.  Never in recent years have I been on vacation and not worried about those hundreds, maybe thousands, of emails waiting for me when I get back.  If you laugh at this, I’ll bet you are in the minority these days.

Americans seem to be among the worst of professional workers around the world for leaving hard-earned vacation time on the table.  Depending on which one of many surveys you can read on this subject, something like 50% of American workers use less than their allotted vacation time, many opting for long weekends or short breaks rather than real vacations of a week or more.  When most Americans, including me, do take vacation, they still check email, dial in on conference calls, and generally try to stay ahead of the wave of events going back at their offices and labs.  Most of those same surveys also cite higher stress levels for people who do not take time off, and worse, some indicate that long-term career prospects are worse for people who cannot pull themselves away from the office or lab.  We could speculate about the underlying reasons for this, but I think it’s safe to say that getting away and gaining some fresh perspectives on life can foster more creativity and ingenuity.  In our industry, creativity is crucial to success!

Personally, I believe in a good work–life balance and I struggle to take my own advice sometimes, but as I am finishing up this editorial, I am looking forward to several nice breaks away from the office with my family over the next couple of months, and as inconvenient as they might seem to be, I will not sacrifice them for the demands of work – even if I have to ask the IT department to delete my email box before I come back.  Now it’s your turn to do so as well.  You have undoubtedly earned it and your health and career will be better for it.  And do not forget the people you manage in your organization.  Give them the support and encouragement to feel empowered to use that vacation time well and congratulate them when they return for never checking email or answering the phone while they were away.  You need them refreshed and re-energized with creativity in the long term to help your organization succeed.

Our lineup this month looks at a variety of topics related to flexible electronic networks, sensors, and interactive systems, thanks in part to the great work of our Guest Editor Russel Martin.  Asked to find some interesting stories around the category of flexible and wearable electronics, Russel developed a trio of stories that he introduces in his guest editorial titled “Building on Valuable (Human) Real Estate.”  And, as you might have guessed from the cover, this is not a typical “displays” issue.

Our cover story from the University of Glasgow, titled “Electronic Skin with Touch,” explores the very real possibility of creating a flexible network of distributed computing and sensing nodes suitable for either augmenting human skin in a wearable topology or creating tactile skin-like pressure and temperature-sensing surfaces for robotics.  The iCub robot (shown on the cover) incorporates tactile skin on most of its body parts.  Its e-skin was created with off-the shelf electronic/sensing components integrated on flexible printed circuit boards.  We can see iCub relaxing in San Francisco, maybe after a day of sightseeing in and around the Golden Gate Bridge.  Clearly, he is using his vacation time well.

From robotics and electronic skin, we move to wearable fabrics, in which the electronics could someday literally be in the fibers of what you wear.  In their Frontline Technology article, “Investigating the Architecture of Flexible Large-Area Hybrid Systems,” Professor Sigurd Wagner and his colleagues from Princeton University discuss their work to embed transistors in textile fibers and distribute sensors and processing elements throughout fabrics.  These then become “wearable” materials that can be utilized for countless new applications.

One of those new applications may be health monitoring, and from the Polytechnic University of Turin we have an Enabling Technology article by Giorgio De Pasquale and Angela Lentini titled “Diagnostic Systems for Pregnancy Healthcare through Telemedicine Networking.”  Consider this the macro-level view that explores many new methods and paradigms for remote diagnostics and patient health data collection that can be enabled in part by the distributed wearable systems discussed above.  We are looking at the dawn of a new era of capabilities in wearable technology that will be realized in some cases within this current decade.

Meanwhile, we also wanted to check up on the touch and interactivity marketplace and so we asked author Calvin Hsieh to give us a Display Marketplace submission titled “Touch Panel Market Dynamics and Trends.”  Calvin’s balanced view combines both a technologist’s “wow” with a business analyst’s “hmm” and explains how the stiff competition that exists today is not dampening the innovation and creativity that is flourishing in this field.  That’s good to see today, as I think the marketplace is primed for ever-improving user-interface experiences.

It seems like just a couple weeks ago we were all in San Jose for Display Week 2015.  Our extensive coverage of that event is coming up next month in the September/October issue of ID, but in the meantime we wanted to highlight some of the most interesting topics featured in our on-line blogs written by the team that covered the show for ID.  These various short subjects came from the technical seminars, keynotes, and the market focus conferences as well as the exhibits.  Don’t forget to look for all of our exciting Display Week 2015 coverage coming in the next issue.  Meanwhile, I wish you and your families a wonderful summer season and hope that you will take full advantage of the season to relax and rejuvenate.  •